Jim Bogris has chosen to focus primarily on private appraising — specifically legal. He shares how he lands and keeps those clients, why he turns away AMC orders, and counters the misconceptions around private work.
How long have you been appraising?
JIM: I started out as a real estate broker in the 80's. Back then, we all did a little appraising. Before licensing and stuff.
What made you switch to appraising?
JIM: I liked it better. I like getting paid on everything I touch. As a broker, you're chasing a deal. If you do appraising right, it's steady. My business is fairly steady because probably about 50% of my practice is non-lending. So, I do a lot of lawyer work, estates, bankruptcies, guardianship. I do a lot of private appraisals. And I credit my XSite for that.
“…50% of my practice is non-lending.”
Have you been using your XSite since starting with a la mode?
JIM: I probably went Enterprise [Elite] back in 2005, so 12 years.
Ever since then you've been using the XSite?
JIM: Yeah, ever since. It just works for me. What happened was, early on, I went to a couple of a la mode's training sessions, and Joel Baker helped with some website optimization. I'm always picking something up from those.
But I mean, since I worked with him, my website had a pretty good score (click here to learn about website scores), and I generally come up on the first page of Google when people are searching for an appraiser in my area. And it's good. I'll tell you, I get a lot of calls, people wanting to know if I appraise cars, if I appraise furniture, if I appraise jewelry. Some may think that's annoying, but I say, “No, they're looking for an appraiser and they're finding me. That's good.” So, you know, people put in appraiser and I come up, and I give them a call. I probably get 2-3 calls a month for furniture, jewelry, whatever.
Do you get a lot of calls from your XSite?
JIM: Typically, I get a lot of calls for people looking for a private appraisal. A lawyer tells somebody “you need an appraisal” either for bankruptcy, for probate, date of death, for guardianship, and so they call me and I get that job. And what I also do is I make sure I find out who the attorney is.
Then I contact the attorney, talk to the attorney, and then it's my job to keep that attorney as a client. From now on instead of saying, “here you need an appraisal, call an appraiser,” they say “here, call this guy, so he can get your appraisal.” And that's what I've done. I've turned a number of attorneys into regular clients, so when they need appraisals for whatever — bankruptcy, divorce, date of death, guardianship purposes — they give their clients my name and tell them to call me for the appraisal.
It's like the XSite gets me the first call, and then it's up to me to keep them as a client.
What kind of calls do you get from your website?
JIM: Attorneys, both local and out-of-state, call and hire me directly from my XSite when they're looking for an appraiser for whatever their client needs.
I've done bail jobs for people that are incarcerated, because of my bail page on my XSite. Bail work requires expedited service, for which we have to charge more.
So that is something you do?
JIM: Often, you find yourself helping a parent getting their kid out of jail.
JIM: Use to do more, but they've changed the bail rules a little bit so that's slowed down. I've still done some rather large bail jobs where I had to appraise more than one house because they were putting more than one house up for bail.
I was hired by an attorney to do appraisal for a bankruptcy fraud case. The call came from my XSite, and the client needed a retrospective appraisal, because they were the plaintiffs in a bankruptcy fraud case. They were suing someone, the creditors were the plaintiffs for bankruptcy fraud because the defendants had a house that they sold to the wife's brother shortly before they went bankrupt for a lot less than the house was worth. So, I was hired to do a retrospective appraisal to see how much that house was actually worth at that time. The judge ruled for the plaintiffs on the strength of the appraisal.
I see a lot of appraisers talking about how they don't want to get into the lawyer side of appraising, but it sounds like you've had a lot of great success.
JIM: They're missing out.
Have you heard that before — that appraisers don't want lawyer work?
JIM: Yeah, I've heard that, and I love them. I tell them they're “the best”, they're “smart”, they're “bright”, and “if a lawyer calls you up, send them to me.” I'd rather do lawyer work than lender work.
So why private for you? You obviously have a lot of success with the non-lender sector.
JIM: It's not a commodity. Lender appraisals are commodities. When it's busy, you can charge whatever you want. Then when it's slow, boom, the numbers come down, the prices come down, they get difficult.
When you do lender work, especially if you're working for an AMC, it's whatever's cheapest and fastest. Well, I'm neither cheap nor fast. I'm gonna charge what I feel is fair to me and take time to do the appraisal.
“I'm gonna charge what I feel is fair to me and take time to do the appraisal.”
When you do private work, that's what you get. When you do lender work, they broadcast. I get broadcast emails all the time. Delete, delete, delete. I don't even bother looking at them. It's junk mail. Every lender job that you do, they come back with 10 things that you gotta do: fix this, change this, ba-dum-bum, support this. They don't read the appraisal, they've got questions about the different things.
You get none of that with lawyer work. If I had only lawyer clients, I'd be happy. My dream is to do 100% lawyer clients and never have to do another lender appraisal. Any smart appraiser will tell you private work is better. And I pride myself on being a smart appraiser.
Did you notice a difference when you switched to the new mobile friendly theme?
JIM: I really didn't notice a difference. Typically, I will get five calls a week from my website. Probably, I'm able to turn about three of those calls into jobs. And with some of those jobs, I'm able to turn into clients.
How long did it take you to build up this clientele, and did it all come from having your XSite?
JIM: Most of it was from the XSite. I've also gone directly after lawyers. I go meet lawyers for different things and I've picked up clients. But I've also picked up a number of lawyer clients from the XSite. My XSite was working really well for me when I first started. Probably late 2005. Never really did me any good for lender work, though.
What helped the most?
JIM: What helped was when I started working on and improving my XSite. And again, I spent like an hour one afternoon changing things on my XSite, and it improved it, and I started showing up higher on Google.
I look at my website, I look at my Energizer score, and I'm up close to the top. And I've been remiss lately, I haven't gone into work on the website for a while. I've been lazy.
So, what kind of things did you change?
JIM: Now we're talking like 2007. A lot's happened since then. But your trainer taught me how to refresh content, how to change content.
Did you take one of our webinars?
JIM: Yes. I took an onsite class when a la mode was in Las Vegas. You had a search engine optimization class. So, I did it, and as a result, my XSite works for me. But I can tell you, if you're sitting there waiting for lenders to come knocking on your door because of the XSite, it's not gonna happen. Because they really don't look for appraisers like that.
Occasionally, an AMC might find you from there, but I don't need to get found by the AMC. I don't particularly care for AMC work. The beautiful thing about lawyer work is you can charge whatever you want. So that works out good.
Do you use the XSites Network for people to find you?
JIM: I use the XSites Network to help me on Google.
I don't expect a private citizen that needs an appraisal because a family member passed away and they have to probate the house, which is why they're gonna look for an appraiser, to go to the XSites [Network]. He's gonna go to Google, and he's gonna type in “appraiser Bergen County”, and typically I will show up as one of the top four on the first page of Google. And I get the calls from that. That's what's gonna happen.
I don't know of any lenders that — unless they have a job that's out of their area — say they need an appraisal in Bergen County and he's out west; there are any number of sites he can go to and some of them know XSite, and will go to XSites [Network] to search and find an appraiser because there's any number of them out there. And they're gonna look.
But again, I don't expect lender work, and I'm not really looking for lender work from my XSite. I want private work to come out of my XSite, and that's what I get.
Why lawyer work, specifically?
JIM: When a lawyer's involved, they look over the appraisal. They like the appraisal, because I know how to write the jobs they need for divorce, for bankruptcy, for guardianship, for bail. I've done a lot of them. And as a result, I'm able to talk to the lawyers, so, when they need an appraisal, I get a call from them.
It isn't just that one job that I get from the website; they turn into future jobs down the road.
What is your advice to appraisers who want new business but don't know where to start?
JIM: Go meet lawyers. I started out back in 2005, I happen to be a Greek-American, so, I joined the local Greek-American Chamber of Commerce. And there are a number of lawyers that are members. I joined it, I go there, I meet them, I hand out cards, they hand out cards, I'm an appraiser, I do this, you do that. You meet one or two lawyers, they send you work, you do a good job, they like you, they will recommend you to other lawyers.
I probably get work from about 30-40 different lawyers. A lawyer's not gonna send you three jobs a week. A lawyer might send you a job a month. But if you've got enough lawyers sending you jobs, you're golden.
When people say they don't like the lawyer business because they don't like the trials, or they don't want it to be drawn out, what do you say to that?
JIM: “Thank you. Thank you.” That's all I say. Seriously, if anybody tells me they don't like to do the lawyer work, I do not try to convince them otherwise.
What happens if you get involved in a case that's drawn out? Does that happen often?
JIM: I get paid! I have done hundreds upon hundreds over the years since 2007, maybe I've done a thousand private jobs. I would say 90% were: go do the inspection, get paid at the door at the time of inspection, do the appraisal, send the appraisal, and that's it on 90% of them.
I've done hundreds of divorce appraisals, and I think I've only testified once. And guess what? When that comes up, I charge $200 an hour!
“I've done hundreds of divorce appraisals, and I think I've only testified once. And guess what? When that comes up, I charge $200 an hour!”
Initially, years ago, I was charging $150 an hour, I went up to $200 an hour, and this year I went up to $250 an hour. And if I have to testify, it's a 4-hour minimum. And that includes travel time.
You get these guys on these appraiser forums and most of them are afraid to. And guess what? I'm not gonna tell them it's no sweat. Yeah, fine, don't do it.
On tax appeals — because I do tax appeals work — you're almost always required to testify. But I'm charging for that. So, you know, it's part of the job. It's part of being an expert witness, it actually builds up your resume. Because on my resume, it says that I've appeared before the state tax court of New Jersey in Trafton, in Newark, in Hackensack, in Morristown. I've appeared before numerous county tax boards, throughout the state of New Jersey. It builds your resume. So that's what I do.
You know, if you want to sit there and work for AMC's, God bless you. I don't work cheap.
“You know, if you want to sit there and work for AMC's, God bless you. I don't work cheap.”
Jim is proof that if you put forth the time and effort your XSite deserves, you'll be satisfied with the outcome.
Divorces, refinances, probates, and other private jobs don't slow due to mortgage market ups and downs. And, his livelihood isn't reliant on a handful of big clients. He's in full control of his income.
So, if everyone you know is competing for lender work, who's going after the non-lender work?
The answer should be YOU, with the help of an XSite.
Click here to get your own XSite. It's even backed by our 100-day money back guarantee, so if you don't get any new clients, you get every penny back.